How to Know When Lice Nits Are Dead

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Lice are small parasitic insects. You may learn you have lice when you constantly scratch your scalp, or if you feel as if your scalp is crawling. Trying to discern if a nit (the egg of the female louse) still contains an immature louse can be difficult. If the nits are dead, the eggs no longer contain live lice. It may be helpful to go to a physician to figure out whether the nits you see contain live lice.

Things You'll Need

  • Lice comb
  • Magnifying glass

Close Examination

  • Using a fine-toothed comb, such as a lice comb, take a section of hair and slowly comb up from your scalp. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nits are most likely to be found attached to your hair shaft along one side, within one-quarter to one-half inch of the base. Any eggs you see farther up the hair shaft have likely already hatched.

  • Using a magnifying glass, look for nits that are whitish in color and look like small, puffy grains of rice. Eggs that no longer contain live lice will be white.

  • To identify if an egg contains a louse embryo, look for a nit that has a coffee-colored appearance. Nits that have just been laid appear yellowish or grey.

  • You can tell if a nit is dead when you try to remove it. Live nits are more difficult to remove because they are firmly glued to the surface of your hair shaft.

  • Whether you find live or dead nits, it's important to remove them with your fingertips or a comb. Be sure to treat your infestation to prevent others from becoming infected.

Physician's Examination

  • Have your scalp examined by a physician. Let your doctor know when your symptoms began so he can determine the extent of your lice infestation and if the lice are still active.

  • Ask your physician to use a black light to identify nits. A magnifying glass attached to the light will help her locate nits more easily. According to pediatrician Dr. Greene, live lice nits will glow, while dead nits or empty egg casings will not.

  • Have your physician treat your head if any nits are found. This is important to prevent any nits from hatching.

Tips & Warnings

  • If you have a lice infestation, begin treatment promptly.
  • Remove nits or live lice with either your fingernail or fine-toothed comb. Discard the nit or louse on a tissue or by running the comb under warm water.
  • Remove any nits that are located close to the scalp immediately.
  • Avoid head-to-head contact with other people. This is how lice usually transfer from person to person.

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